Nagendra was delighted on hearing these clever tactics and straightway ordered his pleader, Asutosh Sen, widely known as Asu Babu, to file a petition praying for the cancellation of the sale. It came in due course before the Collector for hearing. He called for the accounts, which fully substantiated the petitioner’s statements. After hearing the arguments of Priya’s representative the Collector said that he was fully satisfied that a mistake had been made, and called on the head clerk to explain the non-entry of a payment made before the due date. That officer laid the whole blame on an unfortunate apprentice, who was promptly dismissed. The sale was declared null and void, and Nagendra regained his own to the intense disgust of the rascally Priya.
Nagendra Babu was now the wealthiest man in Ratnapur. Puffed up by worldly success, he began to treat his neighbours arrogantly and, with one exception, they did not dare to pay him back in his own coin. Ramdas Ghosal, known far and wide as Ramda, flattered or feared no one. Having a little rent-free and inherited land, he was quite independent of patronage. Ramda was “everyone’s grandfather,” a friend of the poor, whose joys and sorrows he shared. He watched by sick-beds, helped to carry dead bodies to the burning-ghat, in short did everything in his power for others, refusing remuneration in any shape. He was consequently loved and respected by all classes. Ramda was the consistent enemy of hypocrisy and oppression—qualities which became conspicuous in Nagendra Babu’s nature under the deteriorating influence of wealth. He met the great man’s studied insolence with a volley of chaff, which is particularly galling to vain people because they are incapable of understanding it.
Nagendra Babu did not forget the Brahman’s presumption and determined to teach him a lesson. So, one day, he sent him a written notice demanding the immediate payment of arrears of rent due for a few bighas (one-third of an acre) of land which Ramda held on a heritable lease. As luck would have it the crops had failed miserably, and Ramda was unable to discharge his debts. On receiving a more peremptory demand seven days later, he called on Nagendra Babu, whom he thus addressed:—
“Why, Nagen, what’s the matter with you? You are plaguing me to death with notices, yet you must be aware that I can’t pay you a pice at present.”
“Thakur,” replied Nagendra Babu in stern accents, “I will listen to none of your excuses. Do you mean to tell me that you decline to discharge your arrears?”
“I never said that,” protested Ramda; “but you must really wait till the beginning of next year. My cold weather crops are looking well; and—”
“No, that won’t do at all. If you do not pay up in a week, I will certainly have recourse to the civil court.”
“Do so by all means if your sense of religion permits,” rejoined Ramda, leaving the parlour in smothered wrath.